ChallengeHER: Creating Procurement Access and Opportunity for Women

I recently learned about ChallengeHER, a combined initiative of the SBA, WIPP, and American Express OPEN designed to bring more women-owned businesses into the federal government’s supply chain.

After reading the initial press release, I got more details about the program from Benjamin Stone, Director of Small Business and Start Up Development at American Express OPEN.

1. What’s the first thing a woman-owned business should do in order to win a contract with the federal government?

In order to do business with the government, there are a few steps that women-owned businesses should take:

  • Register your business in a portal called System for Award Management (SAM). Registering with SAM is required of any business looking to do business with the government and helps you get noticed by government agencies. Registration is free but requires specific company data, e.g. DUNS number, NAICS code, etc.
  • Get your business certified by visiting www.sba.gov to determine if your firm qualifies for the WOSB certification as well as others. Women-owned small businesses may either self-certify or submit a third-party certification.
  • Learn which government agencies buy your type of products and services before responding to any solicitation. Successful government contractors visit USAspending.gov, where they can find out who the federal government buys from and for how much.
  • Use all available resources to find information that will save you time and money. Visit the government contracting section on the American Express OPEN Forum site to access how-to articles, guides, videos, and tips on how to do business with the government. Business owners can also participate in free monthly webinars hosted by Give Me 5, a program for women-owned businesses seeking federal contracts created by Women Impacting Public Policy and American Express OPEN.

2. The press release mentioned live events where organizers will be playing “matchmaker” to pair up woman-owned businesses with federal contract opportunities. Is this also available to people who can’t attend these events?

Woman-owned businesses should continue to visit the ChallengeHER section of the WIPP website for continual updates on events and tutorials throughout the year. Business owners that are unable to attend events should take advantage of free resources from the Give Me 5 program, which offers free webinars on a variety of government contracting topics.

3. What tips can you offer for accessing the System for Award Management (SAM)?

Registering your business with SAM is crucial as this portal will help your business get noticed by government agencies with contract opportunities. While registration is free, it does require the following “must haves”:

    • DUNS (Data Universal Numbering System) number
    • TIN or EIN (Tax ID or Employer ID Number)
    • Product or Services Classification Codes (NAICS) http://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics
    • Communication links Points of Contact (POC)
    • Company website

Give Me 5 outlines more tips and tricks for navigating SAM here.

4. How can people find out more about new events and trainings as they’re announced?

For now, women business owners can visit the ChallengeHER page on WIPP’s website, http://www.wipp.org/?ChallengeHER. The website will provide timely updates about ChallengeHER events throughout the country as well as upcoming webinars. Small business owners can also follow WIPP on Twitter at @WIPPWeDecide.

The next ChallengeHER event will be held in Phoenix on June 12, 2013, where women-owned small businesses will learn how to take part in the WOSB Federal Contracting Program. Interested business owners can get more details about the Phoenix event and register to attend here.

5. Is there anything else you would like Bill’s readers to know?

Doing business with the government requires motivation, persistence and patience. It’s important to keep a few things in mind when venturing into the world of federal procurement:

  • Don’t get discouraged – persistence pays off! According to an American Express OPEN survey of active contractors, it took nearly two years of trying to win the first federal contract. But persistence pays off – active contractors win almost three contracts per year. Staying proactive is a key to success.
  • Team up to win contracts – Our survey reveals that SBOs who team win 50% more contracts. Teaming enables businesses to partner with one another to qualify and meet the contract requirements since one small business can’t provide all of what’s required. Also, teaming with an experienced government contractor with federal past performance will help novice government contractors build past performance. Learn more about teaming here.
  • Government contracting is something small businesses should at least consider. Why? American Express OPEN research shows that government contracting can help boost a small business to become a high-growth company – 47% of small businesses active in government contracting reach the $1M revenue mark, compared to just 5% of small business overall.

Thanks, Ben! You’ve given women business owners some really useful tips and resources for success in federal contracting.


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